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24 Examples of Play

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Play is any activity that is pursued for joy. This can be contrasted with work or study that is designed to produce a result. Play is the vocation of childhood as it is an essential part of learning and development. As such, time for play is viewed as a childhood right and is covered by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Play also has benefits for grownups as a means to learn, stoke creativity, stay healthy and enjoy life. The following are common types of play.

Object Play

Playing with objects. An essential form of early play that allows a baby to learn about the things around them such as colors, shapes, forms, textures, weights, fragility and how things work.

Independent Play

Playing alone with intense focus. This is an early form of play that remains important as a means for developing concentration and the ability to create, construct and do things independently.

Social Play

Play that involves others. This has several variations:
Onlooker Play
Watching others play without directly participating. This may involve communication.
Parallel Play
Playing side by side in a similar fashion. For example, two children who are drawing different things at the same time. This may involve communication and mimicking each other's play.
Associative Play
Play that involves interaction but not cooperation. For example, one child who is pretending to be a turtle and another who is pretending to be a superhero with interactions but no shared narrative.
Cooperative Play
Play that involves cooperation such as constructing something together.
Communicative Play
Play based on communication such as jokes, debate and singing.
Improvisation is the building of a story in a social and dynamic way such as children who defeat an imagined villain as a team.


Imagining things as part of play. For example, a child who imagines they are exploring an alien world.

Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of disbelief is the process of pretending to believe in fantasies constructed by others. For example, temporarily imagining a video game is real in order to fully experience it.

Recapitulative Play

Acting out elements of culture and tradition such as stories, history, pastimes and rituals. For example, a child who pretends to be a samurai.

Storytelling Play

Telling or acting out a story. For example, a young child who retells a story they have heard in their own words with a few changes.

Imitative Play

Imitating others including characters from media such as television.

Role Play

Assuming a role such as an object, animal or character from fiction. For example, a child who pretends to be a dog or cat.

Physical Play

Running, jumping, climbing, swimming and other types of physical activity undertaken for enjoyment.

Rough & Tumble

Interactive physical play such as chasing, play fighting and wrestling.

Deep Play

Risk taking play that serves to overcome fears and develop confidence. For example, jumping off things or climbing a tree.


Exploration of real or imagined environments. For example, imagining that you are exploring a pirate cave that is in fact a closet. Exploration is a common theme of video games, particularly adventure games.


Solving a mysterious problem for fun.

True Play

Free play that is undirected and unconstrained.


Play with rules such as a video game, card game or physical game such as hide and seek.


Games that challenge mental abilities such as spatial intelligence.


Play that involves long term planning to achieve a goal. For example, designing and building a fort that will be useful in a water balloon fight.


Play that involves short term planning to achieve a goal. For example, figuring out how to hit someone who is behind a tree with a water balloon without getting hit yourself.


A game based on physical competition such as soccer. This often has a social aspect such as team membership. Sports can serve to build competitive spirit, physical confidence and skills.

Musical Play

Music related play such as singing, dancing or playing real or imagined musical instruments.


Creating art such as a painting or sculpture.

Constructive Play

Building things such as a paper airplane or a building made of sand.

Mastery Play

Play that involves trying to improve with time to master a skill or knowledge area. For example, a child who wants to be good at chess, video games or drawing who plays with a goal to improve.


The following are common types of play:


Play allows us to exercise our abilities in situations that aren't fully real.
Overview: Play
An activity that is pursued for joy.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about play.
Active Lifestyle
Adventure Activities
Aerobic Exercise
Calculated Risk
Educational Activities
Gaming Skills
Indoor Activities
Nature Activities
Physical Activity
Physical Experience
Physical Fitness
Risk Taking
Social Interaction
Social Needs
Winter Sports
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Unicef. "Convention on the Rights of the Child." (1989).
Caillois, Roger. Man, play, and games. University of Illinois Press, 2001.
Sawyer, R. Keith. Pretend play as improvisation: Conversation in the preschool classroom. Psychology Press, 2013.
Hughes, Bob. Evolutionary playwork and reflective analytic practice. Routledge, 2013.


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